Jessica von Bredow-Werndl, winner of an Olympic gold medal, reflects on the “mental toolbox” that enabled her overcome “the fear of blunders knocking on my door every day.”
J. Von Bredow-Werndl Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
Jessica von Bredow-Werndl, the 2021 Olympic and European triple gold medalist, had a banner year.
The German rider was unbeatable atop the Trakehner mare TSF Dalera BB, first helping her team win gold at the Tokyo Olympics and then taking home the honour for herself.
She won team gold and two individual gold medals in the European Championships, held in her native country of Germany in Hagen less than two months later.
Jessica has been a mainstay of the German national team for years, formerly riding the Gribaldi stallion Unee BB, so the Olympic Games in Tokyo were far from her first championships. She and Dalera were the early 2021 European show circuit favourites, and if they could find a way to defeat Isabell Werth and Bella Rose in Japan, they would take home the gold.
In episode 86 of The Horse & Hound Podcast, Jessica told H&H dressage editor Polly Bryan, “I knew I had the possibility to win [gold] but I didn’t anticipate it.” Every detail must be just so in order to bring home the gold at the Olympics. Try not to let your anxiety get the best of you.
“Dalera was incredible; she put in heroic efforts on my behalf, and she consistently reassured me that things will turn out OK. That happened, and it was like something out of a fairy tale.
Gold medalist in the Olympics, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl
Individual finals in Tokyo were high-stakes affairs, with Jessica setting an unrealistic goal of 91.73 percent before her closest challenger, fellow countrywoman Isabell, entered the competition.
After seeing Isabell’s score of 89.6% flash up on the Board,
Jessica realised that she was still in first place with just two riders still to go. “I remember the feeling when I realised that I may be individual Olympic champion, even if it wasn’t sure yet,” she recalled.
She went on to say that she had been taken aback by the intensity of her feelings, but that it had only served to prove how badly she wanted the job. I’ve always told myself, ‘You can’t do more than giving your best,’ but that’s why the realisation that you just might make your dream a reality is so fantastic. I was under a lot of stress, and suddenly it all collapsed. Really, it was astonishing.
Jessica acknowledged that she was under a great deal of stress in the days leading up to the Olympics, however she believed that this was more a result of her own high expectations of herself than anyone else’s.
Just do your best; Dalera doesn’t care if you win the German championships or the Olympics, I’ve reminded myself. Every day, though, the worry that I wouldn’t do well enough rang at my door.
I’ve had a few years of experience at the highest level, and I’ve had the good fortune to compete in past tournaments that helped me prepare for this one. Meditation and various breathing exercises are only two of the many mental tools I’ve amassed over the years.
When Asked how she deals with the Pressure, she Stated,
“It helps me face the fear to make mistakes, since on the one hand to make mistakes is quite common, but on the other hand it’s foolish if it happens [during an Olympics].”
Jessica also revealed that the dressage editor at H&H made a remark in an article not long before the Olympics that had a significant impact on her.
The first time I was confronted with this topic, I saw that line [implying she could become the next Olympic champion] and thought, “Wow, there are people who actually believe it’s feasible.” “It moved me a lot and gave me a lot of inspiration,” Jessica added.